Ads for the Millennial Mindset

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Advertising strategies and content changed from billboards to radio and TV. Now the Internet and smartphones in the hands of Millennials require greater change in ads

There was a time that manufacturers could say whatever they wished about their product, even if untrue, and customers believed every word. Not anymore. The Millennials generation’s plea to brands, is, “Authenticity, not advertising.”

Millennials, making up 25% of the US population, and spending $200 billion annually on products and services, are not a segment to be ignored. And they have their own views of advertising as manipulated messages geared to increasing sales. A recent survey carried out by the Illinois-based McCarthy Group, found that 84% of millennials dislike and distrust advertising. At the same time, 58% of young people will tolerate digital ads or Google Search Ads to support their favorite digital personalities. Also, according to a recent survey by the mobile advertising platform, Aki Technologies, they found that consumers respond to ads on their mobile as they watch TV and ads they see just before they go to sleep.

The perspective was different in earlier times. Americans became addicted consumers with the rise of advertising in the mid twentieth century, with annual advertising budgets increasing from $6 billion in 1950, to over $13 billion in 1963. As President of the National Broadcasting Company, Robert Sarnoff, said in 1956, “The reason we have such a high standard of living is because advertising has created an American frame of mind that makes people want more things, better things, and newer things.”

The radio, the initial TV and billboards blended into the golden era of advertising. As TV became a popular family leisure activity, advertisers used TV images to differentiate their products and to show the strength and quality of their particular products, like a Band-Aid bandage staying fixed on an egg in boiling water. In the meantime, advertising had to change strategies to encourage consumers to keep on buying when their initial demand was sated. Continuously improved products came to be advertised to create “consumption anxiety,” making people buy products that were not essentials.

As technology evolved, there has been a shift in advertising motive. Today, the focus is not selling mentality, but concepts like community-building, energy-saving and conservation and sustainability.

Furthermore, with the advent of the Internet and the ensuing ability to obtain information instantly, people were no longer enthralled by advertisements. On the contrary, they viewed advertisements with a sense of skepticism, because the exaggeration and overpromise of many ads became apparent when reality showed something different. Therefore, people started looking to other online users of the product to exchange frank and honest opinions.

With Millennials being the first “digital natives,” growing up with smartphones and the Internet, they are not gullible or ignorant, and take ad content with a pinch of salt if they do not completely reject it. Therefore, with Millennials, advertising requires a fresh and honest approach.

Nevertheless, the truth appears to be that consumers do not hate all ads. They just abhor the bad ones. About 83% of people say, “Not all ads are bad, but I want to filter out the really obnoxious ones.” Even as many people use ad blocking apps to suppress all ads, 77% of them say they would like to filter out distasteful ads rather than blocking ads completely. There are many people who have, in recent times, been introduced to products they have come to love, through appropriately placed high quality advertising.

What stands out in the advertising arena is that millennials refuse to be “talked at.” They are in the habit of being able to control the information in their daily lives, and they interact no differently with the online brands they are introduced to. They want to have control of the messaging. They want products they wish to have for the things they want to do. They will not be lured to buy a product just because it is advertised. And if they are brand loyal, such as following the brand, or liking it on social media platforms, they expect to be rewarded for it. They seek out coupons, and want to have priority in receiving product updates.

As British writer and businessman, Paul Marsden reminds, “Business is all about solving people’s problems – at a profit.” Indian author of self-help books, Siv Khera’s perception is “We don’t have business problems, we have people problems. When we take care of our people problems, most of our business problems are automatically resolved.” Founder of the Twitter app store, Oneforty, Laura Fitton, says, “Focus on the core problem your business solves and put out lots of content and enthusiasm., and ideas about how to solve that problem.”

Thus, advertising of today revolves around being honest and open about resolving consumer problems. That is the way to reach the millennial mind.

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